Even when your job involves inherent risk, as it does if you are a construction worker, your employer in Wisconsin has a responsibility to provide a safe working environment. Nevertheless, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, every year more than 800 construction workers die, and many more receive injuries, due to work-related accidents, many of which are preventable.
Trenching is one of the most dangerous types of jobs in construction work. You may not think of soil as being heavy, but one cubic yard of it can weigh nearly 3,000 pounds, almost as much as a car. Another hazard of trench collapses is that becoming buried under the soil can cut off your air supply and cause you to suffocate. Bearing these facts in mind, it is no wonder that serious injury or death can occur from a trench cave-in within a matter of minutes.
For safety purposes, OSHA uses four different categories to classify different types of soil: types A, B and C, as well as solid rock. Type C is the least stable of the four, while solid rock is the most stable. When digging a trench in A, B or C types of soil, sloping of the walls must occur for safety's sake. The more unstable the soil type, the more sloping of the walls OSHA requires. Because of its stability, OSHA does not require sloping of trench walls in solid rock. Instead, the walls can be vertical. However, OSHA does have rules against undercutting vertical walls in solid rock.
The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.